Finding Roots. Irma Stern’s Zanzibar Paintings (1939 – 1945)

Two men share a cup of coffee together in close intimacy. Ochre turbans regaled with purple ribbons are wrapped around their heads suggesting faraway lands and stories yet untold brewing under the blanket of shared physical space. There’s a cheekiness to the moment, captured in the wink of the man to the left. There’s a…

Mary Cassatt – In the Loge (1878)

When Countess Olenska appeared in the box of one of New York’s oldest aristocratic families one January night in the 1870s, a wave of indignation reverberated throughout the seats of the new Opera House. You’d think the fine gentlemen and ladies of New York would have been more enthralled with the Faustian tragedy being played…

Helen McNicoll – The Mother (c. 1912)

When it comes to Impressionism and motherhood there’s probably no one more famous than American artist Mary Cassatt, whose touching vignettes of the mother-child relationship blossom in unassuming poses under the guide of cool, calculated brushstrokes. Berthe Morisot too, another Impressionist, tackled motherhood with tenderness and candor, returning to the subject of her daughter, Julie,…

Paula Modersohn-Becker: When Life Imitates Art

The name Paula Modersohn-Becker may not say much to you outside of Germany, but at 30 years old she was the first woman to paint herself in the nude, in Self-Portrait at Sixth Wedding Anniversary. Here, one quarter turned with her face flushed, she exposes two small, perky breasts crowned by an amber necklace, one…

Joan Semmel – Intimacy/Autonomy (1974)

If to empathize means to put yourself in someone else’s place, then Joan Semmel’s self-portraits offer us an exercise in empathy. Four decades before selfies became a thing, this American artist was resorting to photography to document her body and sexuality, an approach that offered her a unique vantage point, further explored through painting. One…

Gabriele Münter – Boating (1910)

Ahh, the quintessential love story: Girl meets boy. Boy is married to his cousin. Girl wants boy to divorce and marry her. Boy doesn’t. Wait, wait, wait. Let’s rewind. Gabriele Münter met Wassily Kandinsky in 1902. Back then, she was this driven 25 year old art student, financially independent, having just inherited a large amount…